Hamilton Palace, Scotland’s largest private home

IT WAS reputedly the largest private home in Scotland and reflected the immense power and wealth of its owners.
The north frontage of Hamilton Palace, which was demolished in 1927The north frontage of Hamilton Palace, which was demolished in 1927
The north frontage of Hamilton Palace, which was demolished in 1927

Despite its name, Hamilton Palace was not the home of royalty. It was owned by the Dukes of Hamilton, the premier peers of Scotland, and one of the few families bold enough to construct such a vast classical edifice.

Its north frontage, completed in 1842, stretched for 265 feet and was topped by a Corinthian portico of monolithic columns 25 feet high.

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The palace’s interiors rivalled that of any stately home in Europe. Its state rooms, designed by James Smith and William Adam, contained one of the most impressive art collections in the country, including works by such masters as Rubens, Titian and van Dyck.

A late 19th century postcard of Hamilton PalaceA late 19th century postcard of Hamilton Palace
A late 19th century postcard of Hamilton Palace

The Hamiltons began building their vast home in the late 17th century and successive generations would continue its expansion.

The palace was situated in extensive parklands a short distance from the Lanarkshire town that bears the family name.

It was approached by a tree-lined avenue that stretched for more than a mile from the font and rear of the property.

Visitors looking to explore this monumental building today will be disappointed. The house was demolished in 1927, by which time it had lain empty for several years.

The 13th duke had lent the palace for use as a naval hospital during the First World War. When peace was declared he was living in the smaller Dungavel House and showed little desire to spend the huge sums necessary to restore the traditional family seat.

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The palace was also reportedly suffering from subsidence - ironically caused by coal mines once owned by the Hamilton family.

Before its demolition the building was extensively surveyed and photographed, and its famous interiors were auctioned off.

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Much of the surrounding parklands survive as Chatelherault Country Park, where the estate’s original 17th century hunting lodge still stands.

The seat of the present Duke of Hamilton, the 16th to hold the title, is Lennoxlove House in East Lothian.

The estate, which dates back to the 15th century, contains many of the priceless artworks that were once displayed at Hamilton Palace, including paintings by Anthony van Dyck, Canaletto, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Sir Peter Lely and Sir Henry Raeburn.